Ghassan Charbel
Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

2017 Passes as Fast as a Tweet

The year is bleeding its final days. A tumultuous year that is preparing to throw itself off the cliff of time. The world in the new year will not be like the world of the previous one. This is normal. Each year has its own flavor, color, highlights and tragedies. This world has laws that govern it and it differs from the will of scholars, desires of journalists and dreams of poets.

In the final days, one tends to count losses and gains. The businessman takes to the numbers that have cluttered his computer or smartphone. He learns from mistakes or blows and prepares for the new round and opportunities. The employee surveys the situation in his workplace. If it is failing, then he will fail with it. Gone are the days of being assured. The days of relaxing in offices waiting for retirement. A fast, changing and turbulent world. At the end of the year, figures are a like a sword. Numbers do not have mercy.

The story of the journalist is different. He works in the field of others and not his own. He reports news, events and analyses. The most he can do is be a reliable witness in reporting the news. It is a profession that is deeply connected to developments and surprises, not the will of those who practice it. I can almost say that it is a bad profession. The professional journalist is a good spy. If he visits a city, he investigates the deepest of its pains. If he meets a politician, he has the urge to make him sit for a long interrogation. In a cafe in a strange town, he writes down what he overhears from nearby tables. The only solace this spy has is that his report will be relayed to the reader – this hard to please dictator.

The year is breathing its last breath. The roundup is different from one country to the other. Above all else, it was the year of Donald Trump. He reared his head at the beginning of the year, leaving his mark on the rest of its days. A handful of his words on Twitter could force the world to hold its breath. They could worry a region. Strike fear among a ruler. He likes excitement. The American president comes from a different ilk. A president with a different style. When the Americans choose a president, you have to live with him. You have to get used to the storms that he creates. Whether you like him or not, he is the heavyweight boxer in the ring. He is the chief commander of the most powerful army in history. He is at the head of the world’s top economy. You must take his interests into consideration when you are considering your own. America was always a major power and a major problem.

It was the year of Vladimir Putin. He announced the end of his Syria “trip” by declaring a victory against terrorism. He showed skill in reaping the rewards of his adventures and reaping the rewards of the sacrifices of others. He now heads confidently towards elections. He has a deep desire to earn the title of peacemaker in Syria. The Syrian opposition paid a heavy price of his pursuit to settle scores with ISIS, the opposition and the West in the Syrian arena.

It was also the year of the Chinese president. The National Congress of the Communist Party was his golden opportunity. He garnered unprecedented support that consolidated his leadership and thought. This was a feat that was not even achieved by Deng Xiaoping, the man who had the courage to open the widow after Mao Zedong’s influence remained in China even from beyond the grave. Mao is still in his mausoleum, but China has adopted ideas that are different from his image and old teachings that he compiled in his Red Book. The only thing that remains is the Communist Party, which is still the only party and means for power, stability and continuity.

Europe also did not have a normal year. The German elections showed the signs of old age of the brave chancellor’s leadership. Theresa May’s year was never easy. The Brexit negotiations with the European Union were arduous and costly. The Britons took the decision to abandon the European train without looking at the long-term consequences. In France, a 40-year-old president sits in Charles de Gaulle’s office, trying to lead his country to the future and preserve its important role, despite his modest means and weakness before American superiority and the Asian rise. Terrorism punished Europe that had opened its doors wide to the waves of refugees. The far-right exploited the opportunity to play on fears of Europe losing its identity. Some groups grew tired of nationalist attire and Catalonia clung on to its dream of jumping off the Spanish train.

The year was that of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In line with the approach of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the young prince launched a reform plan based on a vision that is no less important than the significant decision to open the window to the future in a society where youths make up the overwhelming majority. In a few months, he led the Saudi society towards the battle for development, building a future and reducing dependence on oil. The battle is backed by numbers. The Saudi youth believed in their ability to shape their future and the future of their country. The results of this battle are not limited to Saudi Arabia alone because the success in targeting terrorism and uprooting extremism will definitely leave their marks on several countries in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Haidar al-Abadi. A lucky man. The world decided to close the ISIS chapter and allowed him to achieve a victory that increased his chances of winning the next elections. He can simply say that the army that had collapsed during the term of his predecessor and rival Nouri al-Maliki had during his term achieved victory. He also managed to “discipline the Kurds”, which was also a great dream of Maliki’s. Abadi also supported the Popular Mobilization Forces, while at the same time calling for limiting the possession of arms to the state.

The passing year will throw itself in the pit of time. The Arab world bids farewell to it, hoping that the next will be less painful. The Arab wants what any normal human being on this planet wants. He wants a normal state with serious institutions. A state that is not being eaten away by corruption or militias. A state that leads a battle for development, modernizes education and bolsters values of progress, openness and accepting the other. It is time to escape failure and abandon dark thoughts. We will not drown in despair despite the misery in refugee camps and war-torn countries. We want to believe that this long slide downhill will stop at some point. The Arab deserves life similar to others on the planet.

The tumultuous year passed us by as fast as a tweet. My, how the world has changed.